Social care’s other users
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
I wish I understood more about how government policies get made, but I suspect that happenstance plays a bigger part than is generally allowed for. On 24 July, for example, Matt Hancock, the recently appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced that ‘the green paper will cover adult social care as a whole’. This reversed the previous position, which was that the green paper would deal only with services for older people, while a so-called ‘parallel’ exercise would address the situation of younger people with disabilities.
The change surfaced not in a formal statement but in an apparently casual answer to an oral question at a session of the Select Committee on Health and Social Care. Would we have known about it if that MP had not expressed his fear that ‘working age social care will become a poorer cousin’? Was the minister knowingly making policy on the hoof or did he – he was after all very new to the job – simply not realise the significance of what he was saying?
Providers organisations Care England and the National Care Forum warmly welcomed the shift, but there are pros and cons to a the green paper’s taking a cross-service-user approach. Age cohorts vary hugely in their economic status, and the solutions to funding their care will need to be very different. Young people rarely enjoy either the level of income or the accumulated capital of pensioners who own property. Most indeed are heavily dependant on benefits, and their need for care and financial support may persist for decades. Compared with older people few are self-payers, but proportionately many more have taken up personal budgets. Though their numbers are much smaller, they lay claim to over half of the current social care budget.
In his March statement of the seven principles underlining the green paper, Jeremy Hunt, Mr Hancock’s predecessor, singled out ‘those born with a disability or developing a care and support need early in life’ as ‘notably’ meriting state aid. However their case is handled, they must not, as the disability campaigning group Leonard Cheshire recently expressed it, ‘become an afterthought’. One solution of course would be to scrap the green paper and decide right away that all social care should be free. Perhaps, some day soon, Mr Hancock will absent-mindedly announce just that. Go for it, Matt, I’d say.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.